[Editor's Note: Robin Davey is the guitarist for local band Well Hung Heart. He and his wife/bandmate Greta Valenti recently reached out to the Weekly to alert us to an unfortunate situation involving online streaming of their music. We decided to let Davey say his piece and use WHH's situation as a cautionary tale.]
By: Robin Davey
With the recent furor around Taylor Swift's decision to remove her music from Spotify, all eyes are on music streaming and its many pros and cons.
YouTube is often sited as the main place for people to stream music, and also used as an argument in favor of Spotify due to Spotify's system at least paying artist royalties per play, though minuscule in many people's opinion, and it also being a dedicated music platform.
A recent Google alert for my band Well Hung Heart bought up a link to a page hosted by YouTube called "Well Hung Heart – Topic" and on this page was a complete stream of our debut album – with auto-generated album art and title for the video. Each song comes complete with advertising placed on each video, yet we had nothing to do with this being on YouTube.
A Google search brings up a support section for Topic. It says YouTube's "Topic" is auto-generated by YouTube and "created by algorithms to collect trending and popular videos by topic"
And yes, it does appear to do this. At the top of the Well Hung Heart Topic page is a collection of our and our fans uploaded videos – nothing wrong with that. But below, hosted on this Well Hung Heart Topic page, is a playlist to our complete first album. Doesn't uploading a complete album of ours, so people can hear it in its entirety for free, sound a lot like piracy?
So what exactly is this YouTube "Topic" and who is getting those advertising revenues on our songs?
See for yourself–search your band name on YouTube and add the word Topic and take a look at what comes up.
Like many bands, we use Tunecore to service our music to digital stores. They have an option to automatically add your music to all new stores as they become available. After further investigation, it seems that they have added YouTube Topic as a store. We contacted Tunecore and explained that we never agreed for our music to be placed on YouTube and that streaming our albums in their entirety, as third party videos, that can be shared on any social platform, was not what we would consider a store. After an initially combative stance, they then backtracked and apologized, promising to remove our music from YouTube Topic.
However, it is only because we kicked up a fuss that they offered to remove our music. Any band using Tunecore's automated store option will find that their music is also being added to Topic. This in turn allows for unlimited social media sharing, advertising revenues being collected on your behalf by Tunecore, and songs that you may have wished to have been exclusive to a particular release or platform, no longer being so.
At time of writing our music is still up on YouTube Topic, and our second album Go Forth and Multiply has also been added. Though tempting for any band for their music to be in as many places as possible, it seems it might be advisable to be far more selective and focused on where your music is available.